Going Long in DC: The 18-mile Version

There are at least four major running trails in the DC area, in addition to the National Mall and various parks, that make it pretty easy to knock out 10-20 mile runs. The trick is whether/not you want to do an out-and-back, a big loop, or take your chances going through the quadrants (SE, SW, NE, NW). The latter usually leaves the mind confused as to how you’ve run through three neighborhoods already and only covered four miles. This District may be dense, but it’s square-mile area doesn’t rank high on the “Big city” list.

I love running in DC, but these legs needed a new-to-us route and a break from the norm. The mind needed a distraction from “18” (we have a history – 1, 2) and a new perspective.

Solution: the long group run! I usually tackle the higher mileage solo, but see above. This needed to be different, and it certainly was. Since the group  plan was “12”, I got in a good 6-mile warm-up which is great for “settling in” to the run and also breaking it up into thirds. We did an out-and-back route, so my mind just had to think 6, 6, 6 (not superstitious at all).

Running ‘New’ Grounds: Starting from our usual spot in Dupont we headed east passing Logan Circle, Gallaudet University & a few intersections that probably wouldn’t be too safe if you were solo on two feet (just keepin’ it real).

The end goal – run to, and around, the National Arboretum! This is a “446 acre major center of botanical research”, which happens to include miles of road and trail for running, walking, biking or very slow driving.

National Arboretum garden
National Arboretum Columns

Image sources – top, bottom (the original Capitol columns!)

There were a few of us in the 18-mile camp that day, and this 2-mile break from neighborhood streets, stoplights and early morning stares was just what we needed. Obviously the scenery wasn’t too bad, either!

I’d recommend adding this park into long run in the fall or spring, specifically – in my image-search I’ve seen tulips, changing leaves and a lot of garden space to be enjoyed!


All said and done, we were back at the Dupont fountain just shy of our distance goal but with no Type-As among us to suggest running circles until a watch beeped a clean “18”. Whew. Two and a half hours of running is enough for us to call it good and accept that the summer humidity took its toll!

Up next: an early 20-miler! Solo. Friday morning. I have three days to get creative with that loop.


What’s your favorite way to tackle a long run? I’d love to add in a travel weekend during a training cycle to experience some mileage on another city’s trail system. Suggestions welcomed!



Filed under DC, new things!, running, running buddy, training

8 responses to “Going Long in DC: The 18-mile Version

  1. Jody

    I hope to hear what you come up with for the 20 miler.. I’m training for the MCM, also in DC, and it does get challenging as the runs get longer.

  2. Those photos look beautiful! Looks like the perfect backdrop for a run,

  3. Thanks for posting this – every week I stare at the DC map and try to find a new fun long route. Haven’t tried the Arboretum yet but I’m intrigued. Last week I did my 16 on the Capital Crescent Trail.

  4. Wow are you speedy – 2.5 hours for 18? I bow down to you!! (now that I know just how FAR that distance literally feels haha). I’ll be thinking of you as you tackle 20 on Friday!! My ‘trick’ to long runs is doing the same loop twice (8 miles twice, 9 miles twice, etc.). Somehow it keeps my brain from freaking out over just how darn for 18 and 20 miles actually is 😉

    • Heather C

      I do that sometimes, too! Mostly when I have to do a LR at my parents’ house in NM, and there is absolutely no way I could map out 20 (safely) around the town. I used to do two out-n-backs in CO, splitting a 20-miler into 6, 7, 7 🙂

      Whatever works (i.e. fools the brain)!

  5. I love DC! I miss biking on the Mt. Vernon Trail.

  6. Definitely love the group for my long runs. I rarely go long solo anymore and have no interest in doing so. Sounds like you had a great one!

    I used to be major type A about the “beep” to round off distance, but not so much anymore. Funny. 😛

  7. Those are gorgeous pictures! I like breaking up the long run into bits, nice job lady! Good luck tomorrow morning!

Let's Hear It!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s